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Member since: Fri Jul 1, 2016, 03:42 PM
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Billionaires raced to pledge money to rebuild Notre Dame. Then came the backlash.

PARIS — The eventual reconstruction of Notre Dame is now a foregone conclusion. Within hours of the fire that destroyed much of the cathedral on Monday, donors pledged more than $1 billion to restore the Parisian icon to its former glory.

Even before the smoke had cleared, luxury goods magnate Francois-Henri Pinault announced his family would donate 100 million euros ($112 million) to the effort. Not to remain on the sidelines, his rival Bernard Arnault — the chief executive of LVMH and the richest man in Europe — pledged twice that amount on Tuesday morning. The Bettencourt Meyers family, which controls L’Oreal, quickly matched that pledge. And Patrick Pouyanne, chief of executive of French oil giant Total, offered another $112 million.

Officials are still assessing the extent of the damage, so the cost of Notre Dame’s reconstruction remains unknown, but these and the many other donations coming in should pretty well cover it. In the meantime, the cascade of cash that materialized overnight to save the cathedral has raised eyebrows in France, still in the throes of a crippling protest over rising social inequality and whose leader is regularly decried as the “president of the rich.”

“Of course, I find it nice, this solidarity,” said Ingrid Levavasseur, a leader of the yellow vest movement that has protested inequality in a series of often violent Saturday demonstrations since mid-November. The stream of donations essentially confirmed the movement’s broader social critique, Levavasseur said.

“If they can give tens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, then they should stop telling us there is no money to help with the social emergency,” Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT trade union, said on Wednesday.


Baby T'rex goes on sale on eBay, sparking paleontologists' outcry

You wouldn’t normally associate the world of dutiful natural history preservation with sporadic bursts of all-caps letters and exclamation points – or at least not until last month, when the fossil of an infant Tyrannosaurus rex, potentially the only in existence, went on sale on eBay for the “buy it now” price of $2.95m. The listing reads: “Most Likely the Only BABY T-Rex in the World! It has a 15 FOOT long Body and a 21” SKULL with Serrated Teeth! This Rex was very a very dangerous meat eater. It’s a RARE opportunity indeed to ever see a baby REX…”

The skeleton, estimated to be 68m years old, was first discovered in 2013, on private land in Montana. It became the property of the man who discovered it, Alan Detrich, a professional fossil hunter. In 2017, Detrich lent the fossil to the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, where it was still on display when Detrich made the surprise decision to put it up for auction. Analysis of the skeleton may help to settle a major debate in palaeontology over whether small Tyrannosaurs from North America are infants or should have the separate classification of Nanotyrannus. Such research may now be impossible with the fossil likely to end up in a private collection.

The Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology (SVP) has criticised both Detrich, who will be taking an important specimen outside the reach of scientific study, and the university, for helping to inflate the price of the fossil, acting as a shop window for professional buyers. In an open letter published last week, SVP’s members said that it was regrettable that the fossil was exhibited before it could be studied. “That action, which brought the fossil to the attention of hundreds or thousands of visitors, potentially enhanced its commercial value,” they wrote. “Museums seldom have the budget for purchase of increasingly expensive privately collected specimens.”

The University of Kansas has subsequently said they were unaware of Detrich’s plans to put the skeleton up for auction. In a statement the museum’s director, Leonard Krishtalka, said the exhibit has now been removed and returned to Detrich, and they have asked for any association with the museum to be removed from the listing. So far no one has expressed interest in paying the asking price, although there is the option to make an offer, and the item has more than 100 people “watching” it. Any museums hoping they might be able to shell out for a quick study and then send it back will be disappointed – Detrich has specified a no returns policy.


Gas prices in California skyrocket to over $4 a gallon with no end in sight

At one of the busiest intersections in Sherman Oaks, California -- drivers sit bumper-to-bumper, searching for a good deal on a tank of gasoline. They pass one gas station, then another, and then a third -- as they gradually begin to accept the new norm in the Golden State: Fuel is about $4 per gallon.

"It's too high," said Los Angeles resident Keith Adams, as he topped off his small SUV. "Today, it's going to cost me 50 to 60 dollars, and usually it costs me 35-40 bucks." For Adams, who drives across the Los Angeles basin each day, this week's spike means thinking twice before hitting the road. "I have to monetize, and figure out how I need to drive when I'm making these long journeys," he said. "I fill up a lot. I'm going to be extra careful. I may not spend as much time just driving around. I may pull to the side (to handle business)."

This is just the beginning for car-centric California, as prices are expected to continue increasing as Memorial Day weekend approaches. Two major factors play into sudden sticker shock at the pump, says AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. "There's a switch over to a summer blend (of gasoline), which is a more expensive fuel for refineries to produce, and that extra cost is passed along to motorists at the pump," she said.

Concurrently, unplanned -- and planned -- refinery maintenance tightens the number of gasoline stocks available.
"So when stocks are going down, amid a time there's a pretty robust demand, you're going to see gas prices increase," Casselano said. The average price in California stands at $3.87 per gallon of regular-grade gas, creeping up 22 cents from one week ago, according to AAA. The state's average one month ago was just $3.31. Prices in metropolitan areas are even higher. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, drivers are paying about $3.94 per gallon. San Franciscans are forking over close to $3.96. The national average is $2.76 per gallon.


Obama warns progressive lawmakers to avoid a 'circular firing squad' ahead of the 2020 election

Source: AOL

Former President Barack Obama issued a warning to Democratic lawmakers to avoid a "circular firing squad" within the party that would devoid policy progress, particularly ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Speaking in Berlin during an Obama Foundation town hall, the former commander-in-chief said he worried about progressive lawmakers falling victim to "rigidity" within Washington.

"One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States, maybe it's true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, 'Uh, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be,' and then we start sometimes creating what's called a 'circular firing squad,' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues," Obama said. "When that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens."

Pointing to examples like his passing of the Affordable Care Act and the Paris Climate Agreement, Obama also emphasized the importance of compromise in making progress within a democracy among citizens and lawmakers who don't agree with a given core philosophy or policy.

"You have to recognize that the way we structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don't agree with you," Obama said. "That by definition means you're not going to get 100 percent of what you want,"

Read more: https://www.aol.com/article/news/2019/04/06/obama-warns-progressive-lawmakers-to-avoid-a-circular-firing-squad-ahead-of-the-2020-election/23707633/

California officials seek delay on ruling allowing high-capacity gun magazines

Source: KCRA

It appears the shipment of high-capacity ammunition magazines into California has started for the first time in nearly two decades after a judge tossed out a ban on sales and purchases of the items, the state attorney general said Tuesday. Attorney General Xavier Becerra asked a federal judge to delay implementing the ruling while he appeals it.

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez in San Diego said Friday that a law that bans possessing, buying or selling any magazines holding more than 10 bullets infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. With the ban lifted, even temporarily, Becerra said in a court filing that "there is evidence that sales have begun already."

Chuck Michel, an attorney for the NRA and the California Rifle & Pistol Association who filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling, agreed with Becerra that it allows individuals to legally acquire high-capacity magazines. "There's dealers advertising them now and there are chat rooms where people are discussing buying them and we're getting calls from dealers asking what's legal to acquire," Michel said. "The gray area is, what will the status of these magazines acquired during this window be if the stay is reinstated?" Michel said.

If the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates the ban and a 2016 law outlawing possession, Michel said, buyers could be legally required to give up their newly acquired high-capacity magazines. However, Becerra warned in his court filing that it would be difficult for the state to remove the magazines, even if the ban is reinstated. Becerra said in a statement that California leads the nation when it comes to gun safety and refuses to go backward.

Read more: https://www.kcra.com/article/california-high-capacity-gun-magazines-ruling-delay/27023552

Horrific video shows pit bull kill beloved Pom before helpless owner's eyes

This is a painful video to watch, but all owners of smaller dogs need to see this. It's already happened to me too, fortunately I was able to save my terrier before the pitbull could fatally injure my dog. There are too many careless pitbull owners out there who cannot control their dogs on a leash.

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A 16-year routine for two dog owners from Eltingville ended in horror after the couple’s Pomeranian was brutally attacked and killed by a passing pit bull who overpowered the child who was walking it. The couple, who spoke to the Advance under the condition their name not be published, said that their beloved dog would commonly follow the female homeowner without a leash as she took out the garbage for the evening.

It’s a routine “he’s always done for 16 years of his life,” the husband said.

The couple’s dog, as shown in the dramatic and gruesome video captured by the family’s Ring doorbell on March 16, follows the homeowner and walks to the curb a few feet away before urinating by a mailbox.

The pit bull viciously and unexpectedly latches onto the Pomeranian “like a chew toy,” the homeowner said, “and threw him around.”


San Francisco groups fight each other with rival GoFundMe groups for and against homeless shelter

In a little over a week, a coalition of San Francisco residents raised more than $50,000 in an effort to block a new Navigation Center proposed for construction along the Embarcadero. Its creators attracted generous — often anonymous — donors, but also ridicule from critics who said the group is attempting to thwart badly needed aid for homeless people.

Now a rival fundraiser is hoping to counter the coalition’s efforts, raising money to support the advocacy group Coalition on Homelessness and any of the Navigation Center’s potential legal hurdles. The pro-Navigation Center’s GoFundMe page is called “SAFER Embarcadero For ALL,” a play off its anti-center counterpart, “Safe Embarcadero for All.” William Fitzgerald, the creator of the “Safer” page, said he was disappointed but not surprised to see wealthy residents fight a shelter in their neighborhood.

“It was kind of brazen,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re (trying to stop) a shelter in the neighborhood, and these are the same people who complain about homelessness all the time.” Fitzgerald said he drew inspiration from another GoFundMe page that was created to counter a group raising funds for a border wall. The group, “Ladders to Get Over Trump’s wall, raised money for immigrants seeking legal asylum.

Those opposed to the 200-bed center, which is proposed for Seawall Lot 330 near the Bay Bridge, say it will threaten the health and safety of the community. A group founder did not return a call and message for comment. Rob Solomon, the chief executive officer of GoFundMe of Redwood City, explained why it granted a donation to the rival group: “I don’t think the tech industry is doing enough about the homeless issue. We wanted to do our small part, even though we’re not located in San Francisco.”


Half of Older Americans Have Nothing in Retirement Savings

(Bloomberg) -- The bad news is that almost half of Americans approaching retirement have nothing saved in a 401(k) or other individual account. The good news is that the new estimate, from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, is slightly better than a few years earlier.

Of those 55 and older, 48 percent had nothing put away in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan or an individual retirement account, according to a GAO estimate for 2016 that was released Tuesday. That’s an improvement from the 52 percent without retirement money in 2013.

Two in five of such households did have access to a traditional pension, also known as a defined benefit plan. However, 29 percent of older Americans had neither a pension nor any assets in a 401(k) or IRA account.

The estimate from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is a brief update to a more comprehensive 2015 report on retirement savings in the U.S. Both are based on the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

The previous report found the median household of those age 65 to 74 had about $148,000 saved, the equivalent of an inflation-protected annuity of $649 a month.

“Social Security provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older,” the GAO said.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimated earlier this month that 41 percent of U.S. households headed by someone age 35 to 64 are likely to run out of money in retirement. That’s down 1.7 percentage points since 2014.

EBRI found these Americans face a combined retirement deficit of $3.83 trillion.


Spain rejects Mexican demands for apology over colonial abuses after Pres. Obrador calls for it

Madrid rejects Mexican president’s demand for apology for crimes against indigenous people. A diplomatic row has broken out between Mexico and Spain after the Mexican president wrote to King Felipe VI demanding he apologise for crimes committed against Mexico’s indigenous people during the conquest 500 years ago. In a video filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco, in southern Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on Spain and the Vatican to recognise the rights violations committed during the conquest, led by Hernán Cortés. The video was posted on the president’s social media accounts.

“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the [indigenous] temples,” he said. “The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.” The remarks came two months after the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, made an official visit to Mexico; his government reacted angrily to López Obrador’s letter.

“The Spanish government profoundly regrets the publication of the Mexican president’s letter to his majesty the king on 1 March and completely reject its content,” a government statement read. “The arrival of the Spanish on Mexican soil 500 years ago cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations. Our closely related peoples have always known how to view our shared history without anger and from a shared perspective, as free peoples with a common heritage and an extraordinary future.”

Reaction in Spain split across political lines. Albert Rivera, the leader of the centre-right Citizens party, said the letter “was an intolerable offence to the Spanish people”, while Ione Belarra, from the leftwing Podemos party, said López Obrador “has every right to ask the king to apologise for the abuses of la conquista”. Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative People’s party: “It’s scandalous ignorance and a real affront to Spain and its history.”

Harim Gutiérrez, a professor at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico City, said López Obrador’s letter was an example of “the instrumentalisation of history for political purposes”. “He [López Obrador] says it’s an attempt at … achieving ‘a general agreement’ based on forgiveness, which is consistent with his policies of ‘peace and love’,” Gutiérrez added. “The governments of independent Mexico have had all this time to try to overcome the wrongs of Spanish domination and, currently, in Mexico, the legacy of Spanish domination doesn’t explain all our difficulties.”

López Obrador took office on 1 December vowing to champion Mexico’s poor and indigenous people. Unlike millions of mixed-race Mexicans – mestizos – the president is almost entirely of Spanish descent, whose grandparents emigrated from Asturias and Cantabria in northern Spain. Cortés led a small squadron of soldiers – equipped with horses, armed with diseases such as smallpox, and abetted by indigenous groups at odds with the Aztecs – to Mexico City (then known as Tenochtitlán) in 1519.

The Spanish sacked the city two years later and proceeded to convert the indigenous populations to Catholicism. Cortés has long occupied a controversial place in Mexican history. His indigenous mistress, La Malinche, is still seen as a traitorous figure – with her name forming the epithet malinchista, someone who prefers the foreign to the domestic. In 2021, there are plans to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlán and 200 years since Mexico gained its independence from Spain. López Obrador says there must first be reconciliation before these events can be commemorated.

Spain has shown little contrition about its colonial past. Last November, Pablo Casado, the leader of the rightwing Popular party, commented that: “We didn’t colonise, what we did was to make Spain larger.”


Woman dead after being attacked by her two pit bulls in animal hospital

A woman is dead in Irving after her two pit bull terriers mauled her at an Irving animal hospital Saturday morning, Irving Police confirmed.

The attack happened at 11:45 Saturday morning, police said in a news release. The woman, 33-year-old Johana Villafane of Irving, was at the O’Connor Animal Hospital in Irving trying to feed the two dogs outside in an exercise area when her two pit bull terriers, a male and a female, attacked her, police said.

The dogs were already in quarantine for veterinary observation after they previously bit another person, according to police.

O’Connor staff and paramedics tried to rescue Villafane, but the dogs would not let anyone near them or Villafane. Irving Police was called in and they couldn’t get close to Villafane, either.

“They were unable to retrieve her to give her any medical attention because of the animals,” Irving Police officer David Dickinson told WFAA.

Police were forced to shoot and kill both dogs.

“I don’t believe that [the officer who shot the dogs] had a choice,” Dickinson said. “His job is to intervene to safeguard human life, and that’s what he attempted to do.”

Villafane was rushed to Parkland Hospital, where she was pronounced dead from her injuries.

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